Construction jobs are among the most dangerous in America. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that one out of every five worker deaths in the U.S. occur in construction. Of course, non-fatal construction site accidents and injuries also frequently occur.
If you were recently injured at a construction job in Charlotte or elsewhere in North Carolina, you may have the right to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and potentially more. The following is a summary of the rights you enjoy:
Before a Construction Accident Happens
A construction company owes a duty of safety to it employees. Employers, site superintendents, foremen and others must follow OSHA regulations and other laws. Those regulations include:
- Making sure employees have and use safe and properly maintained tools and equipment, including safety equipment.
- Providing safety training and operating procedures in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
- Using color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of worksite hazards.
In other words, as a construction worker, you have the right to go a safe work site every day. Your employer, the site owner and others owe that duty to you.
After a Construction Accident Happens
If you have been injured at a construction job, you should know that most employers in North Carolina must carry workers’ compensation insurance. It pays your medical bills and replaces a portion of the wages you lose due to a job-related disability. In fact, anyone who employs three or more people in North Carolina must carry workers’ comp coverage. This is no-fault insurance. It does not matter how you were hurt.
If your construction employer must carry workers’ compensation insurance, then you should have a right to benefits if you are an “employee.” Some construction companies try to avoid paying benefits by claiming that a worker is an “independent contractor” and not an employee. Keep in mind: The facts – not the title that an employer gives to you – will determine whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation coverage.
You also have the right to be free from retaliation by your employer if you file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits or otherwise participate in a workers’ comp action. Your employer cannot fire or demote you simply because you got hurt on the job and sought the benefits you deserve.
Additionally, if your employer refuses to pay benefits, you have the right to file a claim on your own with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. (However, you must do so within two years after your injury by accident.)
Depending on your injury, you may have the right to workers’ compensation benefits that include:
- Medical benefits that cover all costs of treating your work injury
- Disability benefits for as long as you cannot work, which cover 66 and 2/3 percent of your average weekly wage (up to a statutory limit).
- Disfigurement benefits of up to $10,000 for scarring or damage to internal organs.
- Vocational rehabilitation benefits to pay for training and education if you must learn new skills to return to work.
- Death benefits if you are an eligible survivor of a construction worker who died from injuries suffered on the job.
You have the right to appeal if your employer or its insurer denies your claim for workers’ comp benefits. You should never take “no” for an answer if a workplace injury has kept you out of work for more than a week.
If a contractor or vendor who caused your injuries was neither your employer nor a co-worker, you may also have the right to pursue additional compensation in a third-party injury claim. You cannot sue your employer. However, another responsible party may be held accountable for your construction injury through a personal injury lawsuit.
Let Our Charlotte Construction Accident Lawyers Help
The workers’ compensation benefits system in North Carolina can be complex. Unfortunately, many injured construction workers and others fail to get the full amount of benefits they deserve – simply because they don’t know enough about how the system works. Employers and their insurers also may do little to nothing to help an injured worker understand his or her rights.
The solution is to get in touch with Warren & Kallianos as soon as possible. We can provide a free consultation about your case. We have more than 56 years of combined legal experience and a record of positive results for injured workers and their families in Charlotte and throughout North Carolina. Contact us today to learn how we can use that experience to protect your rights.